In the early 1900s, the Ford Model T became the first affordable, mass-produced car on the market. Going from horses sustained by hay to machines that run on gasoline, people had to plan, excavate, and install gas stations in cities, villages, and eventually rural areas. Over the past few years, sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in the United States have increased dramatically, pushing thought leaders to convene and discuss  the unique infrastructure issues associated with PEVs, like their predecessors did over a century ago.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its national laboratories have made significant advances in the research and development of charging infrastructure for PEVs. As the public and private sectors work closely to increase the convenience, accessibility, reliability and affordability of public charging, a broad movement of innovation in PEV infrastructure is emerging. 

interop graphic electric

DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) is working on understanding and reducing technical barriers to high-power extreme fast charging which could significantly cut the time it takes to recharge a PEV’s battery. Wireless charging could also provide increased convenience to drivers, and researchers are exploring ways to cost effectively and efficiently produce the technology.

Additionally, VTO is engaging with the PEV community to understand what research is needed to enhance the interoperability, accessibility and expediency of the nation’s charging infrastructure, which includes more than 43,000 charging outlets. Today’s networked charging stations are operated by a few companies offering varying services for their customers. The Public PEV Charging Infrastructure Guiding Principles document intends to guide VTO’s efforts and support stakeholder decisions. A key principle recognizes charging needs of PEV drivers and owners. It highlights the importance of standardized, open charging systems to ensure easy access to charging in a competitive and highly innovative market. The principle describes network interoperability for all PEVs to include open-source software that can communicate across different platforms, standardized payment and billing systems, and real-time charging station status.

DOE has established a multi-lab team of experts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and Idaho National Laboratory, to research network interoperability characteristics. The team will convene PEV stakeholders in Washington, D.C., on June 29, for facilitated discussion to identify the most pressing opportunities and weaknesses. With public and private sector input, the event will result in a report on the barriers and enablers to achieving nationwide network interoperability, including a description of, and requirements for, an interoperable charging system.

For more on VTO’s work in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, visit vehicles.energy.gov.